BERLIN (Bloomberg) -- Mercedes-Benz has set up a new sales-support unit for China as it seeks to catch rival Audi, the best-selling premium brand in the world's biggest car market.
The automaker also plans to step up the pace of dealership openings this year, adding 75 new stores, including 36 in cities where the brand hasn't been present before.
The new sales-support unit, Sales Management China, based at Daimler's headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, will coordinate marketing, sales and training initiatives in China to support the local sales organization, the company said on Tuesday in a statement.
The unit, which started operating this month, is headed by Benjamin Auer, a former sales manager for Audi in China.
'Foot on the gas'
"We have taken numerous measures for our Chinese business in the past six months, and we're keeping our foot on the gas," Hubertus Troska, who runs Daimler's China operations, said in the statement.
The 75 new China dealers in 2013 outpace the average growth of 50 sales outlets a year, Daimler said. Mercedes had 260 stores in China at the end of 2012, trailing the more than 300 at BMW and Audi. Mercedes will also have seven training centers in China, including the largest outside Germany, after opening a planned facility in Shanghai.
CEO Dieter Zetsche's plan to retake the top spot in the luxury-car industry has been hobbled by a disjointed strategy in China. Two competing sales organizations were merged in December, while Troska was appointed to the management board to oversee the efforts.
The expansion of sales activities in China is aimed at supporting the introduction of about 20 new or upgraded models there by 2015.
Mercedes brand sales in China rose 7 percent to 17,684 in May, while BMW's brand deliveries climbed 17 percent to 29,781 and sales of Audi, the No. 1 selling premium brand in China, jumped 16 percent to 42,140.
Automotive News Europe contributed to this report